THE VOLCANIC EXPLANATION:
Activity at the Soufriere Hills Volcano is at a relatively low level at the moment with rockfall signals being the most dominant. In the last 24 hours there were about 40 such signals together with a very few volcano-tectonic and hybrid earthquakes.
During the course of yesterday there was a steam and ash plume clearly visible from the Old Towne area but no clear views of the dome. Dust levels in the central and northern zones are very low.
A GPS survey of the network Lees Yard - St Georges Hill - Old Towne - Waterworks was completed yesterday. The results are currently being processed and will be available later this week.
Activity at the volcano is concentrated on the areas above Galways but there has been some rockfalls in the Tuitt's Ghaut and Tar River areas which could easily lead to pyroclastic flow activity. Residents should remain on the alert.
BRITISH SCIENTIST REPLIES TO NEWSPAPER ARTICLE:
Following the article "Volcano may force evacuation of Montserrat" written by Jonathon Leake and published in The Sunday Times of London on December 7th 1997, Professor Steve Sparks of the University of Bristol and the next Chief Scientist at the MVO replied:-
The article speculates on the discussions at last week's scientific conference in Antigua on the volcanic eruptions on Montserrat. Most of the statements in the article are simply incorrect or inaccurate. The journalist in question tried to find out what was going on, but failed. None of the scientists have warned that the island may have to be evacuated. The task of the scientists is to provide the best possible scientific information to those who have to make decisions within the U.K. and Montserrat Governments. His speculations on what was discussed at the conference and any implications are without foundation.
The scientists have never said at any time that there is a strong chance that eruptions would affect the north. The view in August was that eruptions that affect the north was low. The possible health effects of the ash are a concern , but remain under investigation. The north of the island does not receive much ash because the prevailing winds do not often blow ash from the volcano to the north. At the present time the air quality on Montserrat is good.
The results of the meeting of scientists on Antigua will not be released prior to being presented to the Governments of the U.K. and Montserrat and receiving permission from these Governments to make them public. The use of old direct quotes from many weeks ago, unrelated to the meeting, in such a way as to imply that these statements reflect thinking at the meeting, is mischievous. Personally I have never knowingly stated that the people of Montserrat would find it hard to stay even without further eruptions as claimed in the article. I know that the people of Montserrat are very resilient. They are patriotic and have a strong will to see their country survive and thrive despite the volcano.
(released on December 11th 1997)
ENTRY TO UNSAFE ZONE SUSPENDED:
The scheme to allow the entry of residents into unsafe areas (other than the Salem area) remains suspended. If future windows of opportunity occur, the scheme to allow limited entrance to certain areas will be reintroduced.
The pass system for entry into Salem is still in force.
CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL PROGRAMME RELEASED:
The Montserrat Tourist Board have released the festival programme under the theme " Making People Happy".
The programme includes:
Persons can call the Montserrat Tourist Board at 664 491 2230 or 8730 for further information.
(continued from last week)
(24) We recommend in the first instance that the current aid to Antigua be fully allocated to specific projects. There should then be a survey conducted on behalf of the British and Antiguan Governments of the continuing needs of Montserratians in Antigua and their effect on the economy and social services of the country. This would establish the case for any further assistance. The grant for Montserratians who have relocated elsewhere in the Caribbean was calculated on the basis of six months average Montserratian income. Should Montserratians not have found employment after this period, consideration must be given to further support(more tomorrow)
More information tomorrow....................................